Monday, 27 September 2010

Oven progress

This time last week we were all set to send the final oven design off to the fabricator, but a timely conversation with Peter Scott, led to some last minute changes. Peter Scott's site, Rocket Stove Design Base, has plans for a bread oven rocket stove. We saw these plans after many months of planning our own oven, having no idea if anyone had done something similar. It was very reassuring to know that someone had made an oven with a similar design to our own.

The internet is a fantastic resource for finding out about innovative designs, such as rocket stoves, but sometimes there's no substitute for a conversation with an actual person, and so it proved in this case. Matthew's conversation with Peter Scott has led to a number of critical improvements.

The plans are now revised and almost ready to go (again!).

This is the view of the internal metal structure of the oven looking from the front. You can see the open doors to the three decks. The previous iteration of the design had only two decks, so bread has definitely been the winner from the redesign!

Monday, 20 September 2010

Local Food Weekend

We've had a busy and exciting weekend full of local food adventures.

Saturday was the AGM of the Fife Diet. The Fife Diet aims to encourage people to source more of their food from their local area, and they've been a great support to us. The speaker was Phil Hanlon, whose AFTERnow project looks at the impact of the diseases of civilisation on today's society. What emerged strongly from Phil and those listening was the importance of community links and networks for dealing both with our current food situation - obesity, carbon emissions, loss of local foodways - and possible future senarios - peak oil, disruptions to food security.

We had a stall at the AGM, and it was great to hear lots of enthusiasm for our bread. We also got to chat with one of our long-time food heros, Joanna Blythman. The great value for us, as producers, in meetings like this one is, not only to hear about the work of the Fife Diet in the last year, but also to meet people with similar concerns and enthusiasms to our own. Academics like Phil Hanlon; writers and campaigners like Mike Small and Joanna Blythman; like-minded people living close by us we'd never met before; someone who might put us in contact with a source of local honey - all these links help to strengthen the community in which we live and work.

On Sunday we took our first trip to Muddy Boots, a farm, shop, cafe and source of varied outdoor fun. We were feeling pretty tired after our week baking followed by the Fife Diet stall so were hoping for good, simple food, not cooked by us! And Muddy Boots cafe were more than up to the job. We had a delicious pork stew with mashed potatoes. It's so rare that I eat a meal in a cafe or restaurant that is something I would have been really pleased to cook at home, but this stew and the mixed fruit crumble which followed it, did that job brilliantly.

I then picked up seven kilos of tomatoes to fuel my current food preserving obsession - filling the freezer with roast tomato passata while the Fife tomatoes are plentiful. Better get roasting . . .

Monday, 13 September 2010


The artisan baker is pretty dependent on fabric. The proving clothes, the wiping clothes, the endless handwashing . . .

You can, of course, buy proving clothes. However, to me that seems a rather expensive way to get some heavy hemmed cloth. When we started out baking in our kitchen, I started making proving clothes for lining the baskets in which the round loaves rise, and in which the longer free-standing loaves rise. It's so little trouble to do I still make them as we need them. I use heavy artist's canvas, which seems to do the job just fine. We have long clothes which are folded up to support many rising loaves and square ones which line baskets.

We also use cloth for delivering bread to bread clubs. Each household's bread is popped into a cloth bag, labeled with their order for the week, the bags are then taken to the hub household and people pick up their loaves from there. We use bags from Bishopston Trading

All of Bishopston's stuff is organic and fairtrade. And I don't think you can have a sustainable bakery without that.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Sun falling on cedars

Our new oven will be wood-fired. The design is a rocket-type, which is substantially more fuel efficient than a traditional wood-fired bread oven.

We are fortunate to be close to the Scottish Wood sawmill at Inzievar Woods, an organisation working towards their aim of creating a sustainable, exciting, regenerative woodland culture in Fife. Sawmill offcuts will be perfect for feeding into the new oven. There's even a cycle path on the old Dunfermline to Alloa railway which connects the bakery with the sawmill, but I'm not certain how practical bicycle collection of wood would be. Perhaps it's time to invest in a donkey cart. Or a goat cart? Then we could have goat's milk too.

However it gets to us, we're going to need somewhere to store the wood. My brother has built us a beautiful wood shelter.

This is the view from the bakery door, you can see the wood store through our nascent perennial herb, fruit and vegetable garden. Next year I hope you won't be able to see the wood through the abundance of berries, rhubarb and asparagus, but at the moment only the comfrey is blocking the view.

Here's a close-up of the lovely cedar shingles on top